There are a lot of things that frustrate me, day to day, in my new home country. The inability of shopkeepers to keep an appropriate amount of change in the cash register. Mind numbing lines at the bank. The impossibility of completing a task without having to make three or four trips in an attempt to have ALL the proper documentation required to say...blow your nose. "The Blank Stare" (you know the one I mean) in response to a question, perfectly executed and elucuted in Spanish. There are hundreds of cultural idiosyncrasies that, if you try to fight them or do things "the right way like we do in America", will make you run screaming back whence you came. Most of the bad stuff we all talk about ad nauseam. There are, however, quite a few things that Mexico really gets right. One notable example is the cost of food, real food, the kind we should be eating. The powers that be take great pains to ensure that it's populace, many of whom will never make more than $80 pesos per day ($8.00 usd) can buy food staples, the building blocks of the Mexican diet, at a reasonable price. Prices for milk, rice, beans, tortillas, canned tuna and cooking oil to name just a few are always regulated, adjusted reasonably year to year, assuring the nation's poorer families the ability to put food on the table. This year, in response to fears of inflation (4.95% last month!) that would be crippling to Mexico's lower class, President Calderon negotiated price caps on 150 food items effective until the end of 2008. Bravo! to Calderon and Bravo! to the food producers for agreeing to not pass on their rising production and transportation costs to the consumers. I don't know what he did or promised to get that deal done, and I don't want to know. Like laws and sausage, the process is best left a mystery.

Today, during my daily trip to the grocery store, I took particular note of the prices for fruits and vegetables. Keeping in mind that agriculture on the Yucatan peninsula is limited, transportation costs for most if not all of these fresh items is always a factor, just as it is in the US and elsewhere. Miraculously, the prices for all of our produce (not just the regional offerings) are very low. My poor mother in law cringes every time I make a trip to the grocery store in upstate New York, as I always make a scene at the check out, cursing the prices of things I have grown to take for granted here. Three small limes $.99!!  One....that's right...ONE Haas avocado $1.99 usd! Fresh cilantro? Apparently more precious than gold! How's a girl supposed to whip up a taste of home? It's no wonder we Americans are in such dire shape. All the real food, the stuff that is really GOOD for you is priced through the roof! Why pay $10.00 for healthy salad fixin's when, for that same ten dollars, you can buy 10 processed "meals" on a seemingly perpetual “sale” in the frozen foods section. Why buy nice fresh fruit for a snack when it costs more than a pint of Ben and Jerry’s? With the rates of obesity, heart disease and type two diabetes at an all time high and climbing, one would think the powers that be NOB would be able to put two and two together. OK, climbing back down off of my soapbox.

Delicious, fresh produce in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

So, I will leave you with this: My food bill for today, from Mega, converted, for convenience, into usd.
(I apologize in advance to both Laurie and Cindy in San Pedro, as this will, most assuredly, make their heads pop right off.)

4       large white onions       $1.65
¾ lb. white mushrooms        $2.73
3       large sweet potatoes   $2.36
5       large cucumbers         $1.00
1       large bunch celery      $0.56
2       red bell peppers          $0.91
3       tuna (an exotic fruit)    $0.35
4       large carrots               $0.28
1       large bunch bananas   $0.59
Total cost for all this:            $10.43

Knowing I can feed my family delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables everyday for practically nothing: PRICELESS.